Super Bowl Ads: Fewer Dot-Coms, More Squirrels

CBS reportedly nabs record $2.4 million in advertising, despite dot-com dropoff

(E! Online) by Mark Armstrong

The Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants: Sure, they have their merits. But unless you like one-touchdown games, many viewers gathering for this Sunday’s Super Bowl XXXV will once again be tuning in for the commercials.

Namely, a pack of rowdy squirrels, a boy band preaching against underage drinking and Bob Dole expounding on the youthful power of…Pepsi.

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Per tradition, the Super Bowl has enlisted an army of advertisers battling for buzz and drooling to get their paws on a captive, couch-planted audience of more than 130 million. And this year, CBS says it has pulled in a record average of $2.4 million per 30-second spot, up 4.5 percent from ABC’s $2.3 million price tag last year.

If you do the math, that’s $76,667 per second.

Not bad, considering CBS is doing without many of the dot-com advertisers who willingly shelled out their last dimes for a spot during last year’s big game, only to be forgotten today. ( or, anyone?)

“The dot-coms that are in this year are all advertisers who were in last year. They’re good solid clients,” says CBS spokesman Dana McClintock. Network advertising execs sat down several months ago, “and they said, clearly, some of the dot-coms wouldn’t be back. So we decided, let’s go back to the bread and butter,” McClintock adds.

The bread and butter, of course, being beer and soda pop. Anheuser-Busch is this year’s biggest advertiser, buying four minutes of ads, including an anti-underage drinking spot with ‘N Sync and–thank the lord–none of those animated longnecks playing in another Bud Bowl. The St. Louis beer giant will, however, trot out its ubiquitous Clydesdales for the Budweiser and Bud Light spots.

Pepsi-Cola also will be everywhere, with the company buying three minutes of ads. This year, cutesy Pepsi girl Hallie Kate Eisenberg has been replaced by pitchman Bob Dole (Viagra and Pepsi…that oughta wake you up) and World Chess Champ Gary Kasparov.

Meanwhile, dot-coms will account for about 10 percent of CBS’ Super Bowl advertising. Most are established companies who have placed spots before. E-Trade will return, as will and, two rival career-search sites. This year, HotJobs is using the Mamas and the Papas’ hit “Go Where You Want to Go” as it follows a silver clicking gravity ball on a journey after it detaches itself from its strings. The company also has launched its own online maze game to coincide with the spot.

But this isn’t an act of dot-com desperation, according to HotJobs advertising v.p. Marc Karasu: “The Super Bowl is important to us,” he insists, “but it’s also less than 5 percent of our total marketing budget.

“We’re spending $2.4 million on the ads, but I challenge anyone to tell me another program where people watch the advertising as much as the program itself.”

As the “Whassuup?” guys would say: True. Some of the most memorable ads of the last two decades have come during the gridiron classic: Apple’s “1984” Macintosh spot, Fred Astaire’s posthumous, and controversial, dance with a Dirt Devil vacuum in 1997. And two years ago,’s “When I Grow Up” ad became an instant classic, featuring little tykes dreaming, “I want to claw my way up to middle management.”

Here’s a sampling of the contenders vying for Sunday supremacy this year:

Electronic Data Systems, the Texas company behind last year’s memorable “Cat Herders” advertisement, once again goes the cute and fuzzy route with a parody of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. This one features thrill seekers taking part in the “Running of the Squirrels.”

Levi Strauss will roll out a spot featuring medics stripping a pair of jeans off an unconscious donor, and them rushing them off to an anxious man waiting for the new clothes.

Accenture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, is using the Super Bowl to launch its campaign to establish its new name and identity. The “Now it Gets Interesting” spots will highlight technology trends and how it affects people’s lives. (Which presumably means no talking frogs.)

MasterCard is back this year with two new spots in its ever-parodied “Priceless” campaign. is keeping its spots a secret until game day, but the company says the ads will revolve around important moments in someone’s career, like getting a raise or promotion. Their slogan? “Job Good. Life Good.”

But for CBS this Sunday, it’s all good.